Maybe “mission” isn’t exactly the right word since we all have missions and values and vision statements. We all want to provide student and staff support and we all value student development and we all have a vision of fiscal responsibility. Vision and mission statements have their place, but we were challenged recently to say what our department is known for. Our students will recognize academic and programmatic support and great service, but they cannot recite our mission. If you could capture what your students think of you, what would it say?
What is your signature? What do people think of when they hear your name? If you had two or three words to guide all of your work, a snapshot of your core principles, what would they be? Some famous taglines you may be familiar with are “That was easy” (Staples), for us old-school people who remember what a wrist watch is: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking” (Timex), and “Fly the friendly skies” (American Airlines).
We had a group travel to the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Florida in Gainesville recently and met with their staff and toured their facilities. Impressive operations in theory and practice but one of the key things we came away with was how impactful a clear and concise message can be in guiding the department.
At the University of Texas, one message was “Wellness and Diversity.” It permeated everything they did and was so ingrained we were really struck by simplicity of the statement. If you look up the values, focus, mission and vision for UT you will find the following information:
Focus on an enhanced campus-wide culture of wellness &
Respect for ideas, values and contributions of others in a diverse workforce
One of the takeaways from Florida was Learning & Innovation. Not in the sense that you are allowed to travel to the next ACUHO-I conference, but in a much larger sense, what your responsibilities are, what are you doing to advance yourself and your organization, how rounded and versed you are in every facet of your department. It was impressive and daunting to see and you can recognize the commitment at all levels of the organization to do exactly what they say they are going to do.
As we go about our strategic planning and day-to-day operations we will begin to think about what will guide us in everything that we do. It is our hope that eventually the guiding principles will be evident to casual visitors, guests, staff and students. It will be as easy and as natural as breathing. It will take some time to reach a maturation level but with the talented and dedicated staff, we will definitely get there. We are not clear exactly yet where “there” is yet, but recognizing the problem is a good first step!
So what three words describe your organization? Bold. Fun. Reputable. Prestigious. Academic. Development. Friendly. How is your story being told?